News Story

Canadian Delegates Participate in BYU International Law and Religion Symposium

The International Center for Law and Religion Studies at Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah) invited three Canadian delegates to its 22nd Annual International Law and Religion Symposium held October 4–6, 2015. The symposium included approximately 90 international scholars, jurists and legal and political leaders from 38 countries. During the symposium, hosted each year at the J. Reuben Clark Law School on BYU’s campus, delegates explored issues on this year’s theme: “Religion, Law and Social Stability.”

The Canada panel consisted of distinguished delegates Barry Bussey, director of legal affairs for the Canadian Council of Christian Charities; Palbinder K. Shergill, general legal counsel for the World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO); and Anna Su, assistant professor at the University of Toronto Law School. They discussed the topic of “Religion and the Law in Canada.”

Mr. Bussey presented that “special constitutional and legal protection of religious freedom is necessary for the survival of the democratic project.” He cited the example of Trinity Western, the Christian university in British Columbia that is encountering opposition to opening a law school because of its definition of marriage — between a man and a woman. He believes Trinity Western’s experience may become the legal precedent in which special accommodations for religion will be challenged.

Ms. Shergill spoke of moving from religious freedom to social stability. She urged participants to step forward from tolerance to acceptance of “otherness,” even when other religious principles don’t align with their own religious or moral beliefs. She discussed the need to step outside our own religions and choose to protect “the other” — especially when their rights do not impede ours — and cited examples where the WSO represents religious freedom cases for religions other than Sikhism. She concluded that this attitude of tolerance would result in a more positive social outcome if we support each other’s religious beliefs.

Professor Su lectured on her belief that religious freedom is an endangered right and principle. One reason, she explained, was the increase of those who are irreligious, who think the religious accommodations offered by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are unfair exemptions and who wonder why religions are given special treatment at all. She also believes religious freedom is in danger of being marginalized if it does not speak to secular interest and concluded that the pursuit of religious freedom is in the national interests of governments.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a special commitment to religious freedom. In a recent address, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the Church, offered these sentiments: “God bless us to emphasize our unity and be tolerant of our differences as we work and play, teach and pray together, a force for good so much more powerful because of our union than we could ever be in individual efforts. I pray that we will make the world a better place through our united faith, our common hope, and our uncompromised charity” (“Faith, Family, and Religious Freedom,” address given at the Fish Interfaith Center at Chapman University, Orange, California, Feb. 26, 2015).

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